As Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, tells it, his company has always been on the side of consumers. It has paid billions to other industry giants, like Apple and Samsung, he said, to make sure Google’s internet search engine worked as well as it should on those companies’ devices.
Testifying on Monday in Google’s landmark antitrust trial, Mr. Pichai directly contradicted the Justice Department’s claims that his company’s huge payments to companies like Apple to be the default internet search option on their popular devices represent its unchecked monopoly power. Mr. Pichai said he had been worried that Apple, in particular, would make it more difficult to use Google’s search on its devices and he believed Google had to pay to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
“Given that Apple designs the experience, it wasn’t clear how they would change the experience if the financial incentive wasn’t there,” Mr. Pichai said.
The Google chief was the highest profile witness to testify so far in the 10-week trial. The monopoly trial — the first involving a tech giant of the modern internet era — reflects increasing efforts in Washington to rein in the power of Big Tech.
The Federal Trade Commission has filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Meta, arguing it stifled nascent competitors, and Amazon, saying it squeezes small merchants and favors its own services. On Monday, President Biden will sign an executive order laying out the government’s first rules for the artificial intelligence systems that Silicon Valley companies have raced to build.
Mr. Pichai opted to stand at a lectern to deliver his testimony rather than sitting at the witness stand as he tried to undercut claims by the Justice Department and state attorneys general that Google stifled competition through default-distribution deals with companies like Apple and Samsung.
Google paid $26.3 billion for its search engine to be the default selection on mobile and desktop browsers in 2021, according to Google’s internal data presented during the trial. A majority of that, about $18 billion, went to Apple, The New York Times has reported.
Google’s competitors testified earlier in the trial that the payments effectively made it impossible for them to compete. Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, said the search giant’s power was so significant that the internet was…